By Bode Akinbode, Ibadan
The Oyo State governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, on Thursday, declared that his administration has set up the state for a massive turnaround in agribusiness.
He said the state was ready to absorb anyone who is ready to invest in large scale agriculture practices and agribusiness.
The governor, who stated this while inaugurating the Start Them Early Programme (STEP), an initiative of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) aimed at promoting interest in Agriculture among secondary school students in Oyo State, added that the programme will be replicated by the state government in all zones of the state.
He said: “We remain steadfast in our resolve to grow our economy through agribusiness. So, let me use this opportunity to once more, call on all who are interested in doing agriculture as a business. We want to hear from you. We want to work with you. Our administration remains open to ideas that will change the perception of our young ones towards agriculture.”
The governor, who launched the programme at the Fasola Grammar School, Oyo, expressed pleasure with the initiative, saying “This project is a product of the type of innovative thinking that ensures that young people learn agribusiness in theory and practice right from secondary school.”
“In the 80s to early 90s, we had the Young Farmer’s Club in schools. There was also the School to Land Programme in Rivers State.
“These programmes helped to steer the interest of some youths towards agriculture, and I must say that some people who have grown to become farmers today developed their interest in agriculture because of those initiatives.
“So, it is time to borrow a leaf out of the 80s book and bring back this initiative. This pilot programme will expose young minds to careers in agriculture that they never knew existed, and they will be given the needed direction to pursue these careers.
“I am particularly thrilled because they will not only be learning agriculture in the classroom. Positive peer pressure, in the form of social clubs, will be used to reinforce their classroom training, and then, they will get practical entrepreneurial training in the business of agriculture.”
According to Governor Makinde, the introduction of an initiative like STEP, which intends to catch the next generation young in terms of agriculture, is a step in the right direction, adding that it sits well with the focus of his administration to explore agriculture and agriculture value chain to expand the state’s economy.
The governor added that his administration would review the state’s 2020 budget to facilitate the possible take-off of the STEP programme in parts of the state within the remaining months of the year.
In his address, the Director-General of IITA, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, told the gathering that the facility in Fasola will be used to engage a selected number of students and teachers who will be trained on modern agricultural technologies and production.
Dr. Sanginga, in an address delivered on his behalf by Dr. Chrysantus Akem, the Coordinator, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation Program (TAAT) of the IITA, enjoined the Oyo State government to judiciously utilise the multi-million Naira project for the resuscitation of the state’s agribusiness.